As apartments in urban areas become prohibitively expensive, young people in Oakland, California have been developing innovative, grassroots strategies to provide homes for themselves, and for homeless people in their communities. The New York Times recently article and slideshow samples new ways of thinking about “home”, “a social experiment in stripping down to the basics.”
Containertopia is a village of shipping container spaces in a warehouse started by Luke Iseman, 32, and Heather Stewart, 30. The repurposed containers represents 160 square feet of living space that can be finished with insulation, dry wall, electrical outlets, even toilets and showers.
Containertopia is a collective of individual dwellings with communal areas and shared spaces, echoing the communes of the 1970’s.
Residents pay $600 per month to live at Containertopia. Costs to outfit a container depend on the complexity of their interiors and the ingenuity of their owner.
Artist Gregory Kloehn’s houses for the homeless cost far less. He is one of a number of artists who use recycled and appropriated materials, ie. other people’s trash, to build containers on wheels that homeless people can live in. (The ability to wheel the houses to different locations get around many city zoning issues.)
His His portable homes dot Oakland’s streets.
Eight feet long and tall enough to stand up, his spare form of shelter “doesn’t fit our mind-set of what a home is,” but is providing an effective means of sheltering people the government has been unable to house.
Both shipping container and box solutions raise the question: what do we REALLY need to live?